We’ve all heard the words ‘equal opportunities’ being used, but what does it really mean to ensure that all employees are treated equally (regardless of their sex, marital status, nationality, colour, race, age, national origin, religion, belief, sexual orientation or disability) and have the same access to promotion and progression within an organisation?

Most commonly, the term ‘equal opportunity’ is a term used within human resources to describe the actions and measures taken to ensure fairness in employment and recruitment. In simple terms, equal opportunity is about addressing the ‘balance’ and representation of a community within a workforce – but what does it mean in action?

Equal opportunity means:

All people are treated as individuals without judgements being made of them based on stereotypes.

  • Understanding, appreciating and valuing all employees’ different
    sets of skills and abilities, and utilising their differences for the best
    personal and organisational results.
  • Offering fair, courteous and equal opportunities to all individuals.
  • Fully embracing the principle that people will be treated with fairness.
  • That a working environment is created and fostered where people of
    all backgrounds and experience feel valued and appreciated.

Many companies have their own equal opportunities policy. The policy should describe the steps the Company will take to abide by equality legislation and promote equality in the workplace. However, it is not enough just to have a policy in place!

You should promote and publicise your equal opportunities policy as widely as possible to all employees. Equal opportunities training can be an important part of showing that you are preventing discrimination, harassment and victimisation in your Company. This will also help you demonstrate that you have taken all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination – something an Employment Tribunal will look for if an employee ever brings a claim against the Company for discrimination.

Paula Fisher. You can contact Paula on paula@practical-hr.co.uk

If you feel that you need guidance or advice on this matter, please call Practical HR on 01702 216573 or email Paula on the above.